Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Day 9, Kyoto: Very Important Moss

Dan's bread odyssey continues with a morning visit to Anderson bakery. The boy gets another four rolls of various kinds down his gullet and declares them to be "the best bread I've ever tasted".

First off, we take a trip up Kyoto Tower, which we really should've boycotted, but I only get round to reading Alex Kerr's scathing comments a few days later, by which time it's too late. I shouldn't say this, but the views are pretty epic...

Then it's onto the city's shrines, temples and gardens. We take the scenic route up to east Kyoto's Kiyomizu-dera and end up passing an enormous cemetery before reaching the shrine. The air is January-crisp, which, in retrospect seems like ideal shrine-hopping weather (at the time we were cursing the coldness).

We get a little lost heading north, but finally end up passing through Maruyama-keon park and Chion-in complex, which is just massive massive massive.

Then to Ginkaku-ji, the silver pavilion.

Dan is more than a little tempted to hurl himself into the impressive raked sand, an action which, he suggests, would find its way into the guidebooks and pamplets. "In 2008, a stupid gaijin caused shocked and outrage after throwing himself into the carefully raked sand at Ginkaku-ji. He was escorted off the premises..."

In Lost Japan, Kerr tells a bonkers bonkei anecdote, well worth quoting here. "A friend of mine studied the art of bonkei: she learned how to place curiously shaped rocks and bonsai plants on a tray spread with sand to create a miniature landscape. But as she slowly worked her way up the hierarchy of bonkei technique, the final secret eluded her: no matter what she did, her sand never held together in the perfect waves and ripples of the master's precisely arranged grains. Finally, after many years and payment of a high fee to obtain her license as a bonkei professional, she was to be told the answer. She bowed at the feet of the master, and he spoke. 'Use glue,' he said."

It's at Ginkaku-ji that we see the Very Important Moss.

And here it is "in action", so to speak.

And finally, we literally run to the Golden Pavilion, Ginkaku-ji, to make sure we get in before closing. Lucky we did: the sun is giving one last push before it goes down and the light is reflecting off the golden building beautifully.

The temple was - predictably (see Day 5) - burnt down in 1950 and then rebuilt within five years. However, the Japanese only regilded it in 1987, around the time the economy was going mental. Presumably that's no coincidence...

Back in 2008, me, Dan and Birdy finish off a long day's sightseeing with some proper Kyoto green tea: gloopy and bitter as anything.

Green tea on red table

With the serious stuff out of the way, me and Birdy have a race up the 11 floors of steps in the station and win 500¥ each from Dan, plus Dan gets his camera's memory card stuck in one of the CD-photo machines in the Bic Camera superstore, causing some trouble as the phrasebook doesn't include the sentence, "Er, sumimasen, this stupid gaijin seems to have got his camera's memory card stuck in the CD-photo machine."

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